Regional Australia cannot carry all the quarantine risk
The first people to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in Australia will roll up their sleeves tomorrow, but the start of the rollout does not mark the end of hotel quarantine. Another 5000 international arrivals are due to land this week, mostly into Sydney.
Australia will likely segregate those arriving from overseas for years to come, to keep the community safe and the economy functioning. But as has become all too clear, hotel quarantine is not fail-safe. It is vulnerable to human error, to inadequate airflow and ventilation and to a virus that is mutating to become increasingly infectious, and almost certainly airborne.
There is growing concern about quarantining returning Australians in our biggest cities, where infection can spread quickly and an outbreak and lockdown can harm the national economy. The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry believes the snap five-day lockdown in Victoria last week triggered by the Holiday Inn outbreak will likely cost the state more than $500 million.
While NSW has ruled out any move to regional quarantine, noting it has successfully accommodated 130,000 travellers in Sydney over the past year, with very few leaks, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews are pushing for the creation of purpose-built quarantine facilities in less populous areas like Avalon, near Geelong, or Toowoomba, 130 kilometres west of Brisbane.